A Parenting Consultant (PC) is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Their role was created by Minnesota Court Rule 114.02(a)(10), which allows parties to develop an alternative dispute resolution process.
How Disputes Arise
A Parenting Consultant works with your family on an ongoing basis to resolve disputes such as parenting time and decisions about where the child will attend school. A Parenting Consultant does a lot of their work AFTER the divorce decree is issued.
Sometimes disputes occur between divorced parents because court orders are written in a way that one or both of them struggle to understand. One parent may interpret an order different from the way the other parent does, leading to conflict. Also, there may be issues to resolve that the court didn’t look at before the divorce.
Other times, disputes arise because circumstances change, and the way that the parents were handling parenting time must adapt to these circumstances.
A Parenting Consultant Can Save You Money
Many parents prefer using a Parenting Consultant rather than going through the expensive and lengthy process of filing a motion with the court and awaiting a decision. There are both positive and negative aspects of using the services of a PC.
Both parents must agree to use a Parenting Consultant. You must also agree on the scope of their authority. For example, if you hire a PC to decide which holidays the child spends with one party and which ones they spend with the other, the PC can’t also decide which school the child will attend. That is outside of their scope. Both parents will sign a contract with the PC, outlining the scope of the PC’s authority as well as whether or not they wish for the PC’s decisions to be binding. The court will review all decisions. Then the court will enter an order.
What a Parenting Consultant Can and Cannot Do.
A PC cannot modify custody orders, child support, or spousal maintenance. Instead, a PC looks at other aspects of shared custody and helps parents define what is in the child’s best interest (since often this is something that parents disagree on). Parenting consultants can interpret, clarify, and oversee compliance with existing court orders. They can also impose consequences for failing to comply with court orders.
Be Careful What You Say
A Parenting Consultant may testify in court, revealing things they have seen in their position. Nothing you say during the process is guaranteed to be kept confidential. If the PC is ever subpoenaed, they may repeat things that you have said or done in open court.
A PC has access to more information than a judge does. So, rather than only seeing what is brought up in court when making a decision, the Parenting Consultant can make decisions based on the “big picture.” This can be reassuring to parents who fear that they will not get a fair hearing.
You Need an Attorney
It’s essential to keep in mind that a PC is not an attorney. They are mental health professionals. While they have a better handle on the family dynamics, they don’t necessarily have a deep understanding of the law. Parenting Consultants can be beneficial in keeping your ongoing parenting arrangement civil and healthy for everyone involved—especially your child.
Nevertheless, it is imperative to consult an attorney when putting together the contract for the Parenting Consultant. The attorneys at White & Associates are experienced at helping parents in Minnesota through this process. Call us today for a free consultation.